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25 Years of MacTech: Mac Memories by Brian Greenstone

Volume Number: 26
Issue Number: 01
Column Tag: 25 Years of MacTech

25 Years of MacTech: Mac Memories by Brian Greenstone

December 2009 marks Pangea Software's 22nd anniversary which makes us the oldest continuously operating Apple game developer around, and it's been quite a ride. We've always had a strong relationship with Apple, and there have been some key moments in time that were turning points for Pangea Software, and had any of those moments been missed Pangea might not still be around today.

Many people are familiar with Pangea Software because for about 12 years Apple bundled our games on every consumer Mac that shipped such as the Performa, iMac, eMac, iBook, etc. They were bundling our games before Pangea became a publisher - when we were just a developer, and back then we didn't really make that much money off of the bundles since our published took most of the profits. In 1999, however, Apple bundled Nanosaur on the very first iMac's, and while that was very profitable for us, it was not the most important event in our bundle history with Apple.

Right after Apple started to bundle Nanosaur, they hired me on to work on the Quickdraw 3D team. About 11 months into my job there I got a call from one of the people in charge of bundles at Apple, and her exact words to me were "Phil Schiller wants another Nanosaur" - that was one of those key moments in Pangea's history. I replied, "well, that's great, but I work for you guys now." I had done other Pangea games while working at other companies, and it had never been a problem, so I suggested that we get permission from all the right people to let me do this on the side. Long story short is that we got permission from everyone up the chain of command at Apple, except for one person... my boss. He wanted me "focused on the transition to OpenGL", but having to choose between that or doing a game for Apple, I chose the game, and that was the beginning of what really put Pangea Software on the map.

The game that we came up with for Apple was "Bugdom". The game was specifically designed from the ground up to meet Apple's requests for a bundle game: 1) it had to be technologically advanced and show off the capabilities of the iMac, and 2) it had to be kid-friendly so that they could bundle it on machines that would eventually go into schools. We were able to successfully pull off both requirements with flying colors, and Bugdom was a huge hit for Pangea and Apple. There was even an article written up in the Sacramento Bee titled something like "The $2000 video game". The author of the article talked about how his son fell in love with this game called Bugdom after seeing it on a demo iMac at CompUSA. The game was only available for the Mac, so the guy had to go out and buy the $2000 iMac so his kid could play it.

Both Nanosaur and Bugdom played a role in the success of the original iMac line, so for several more years we continued to produce games that Apple could bundle. Years, later our relationship with Apple was re-solidified when I was asked to demo Enigmo and Cro-Mag Rally at the 2008 WWDC keynote.

I was out at my ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas one Friday evening, relaxing, and chilling out when I get this phone call from Apple - another one of those key moments in Pangea's history. They said "can you be here Sunday?". I replied, "guys, I'm not even in Austin right now, and I've got my dog with me. There's no way I can do this on such short notice." So, I told them I could try and get the morning "nerd-bird" Monday morning out of Austin to San Jose, and they said that would be fine. At the time, I wasn't really thrilled about doing this since it kinda ruined my Zen that I was having out at the ranch, and I didn't think there was really much in it for me to go through the trouble to get out there. I had to burn 90,000 frequent flier miles that I had been saving for years in order to get the last seat on that flight, which was 1st Class only.

Well, needless to say, that phone call and my by-the-skin-of-my-teeth ability to actually get out there on such short notice was a huge turning point for Pangea. I did the WWDC keynote presentation, and it was a huge success. Enigmo and Cro-Mag Rally were two of the all-time best selling iPhone apps by spring of 2009, and it once again put Pangea Software on the map.

I've had a great relationship with Apple spanning many many years, and as a result I'm often their "go-to guy" for things that they need done quickly. There are so many other projects we've worked on together that I haven't mentioned here, and they've all been a blast, and I'm proud to have been a part of Apple history spanning over two decades.


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